How Twisted’s ridiculous meals found the recipe for viral success

Christopher Mitchell

Twisted started in 2015 with a GoPro mounted in co-founder Harry Bamber’s kitchen. Today, it is a media monolith with more than 30 million fans of its eye-catching, ridiculous food videos.

“We found the videos we were publishing that would perform best were the most creative, ‘putting a twist on the classic’ recipe videos,” says co-founder Tom Jackson. “That was the moment we landed on the name, but it was also when we started to think about what our unique selling point was as a publisher and a food page.”

That first recipe in 2015 was emblematic of what would come: Bamber made pizza cones in front of a GoPro, and edited the footage on iMovie. Things have moved on since then, with a team of ten full-time editors and chefs developing and filming recipes – and a minimum of six original videos posted across Twisted’s social media channels every week.

“It’s about creating content then optimising the edits for platforms,” says Bamber. For Snapchat, they’ll shorten the video and create different titles to attract a younger audience. On Facebook, they crop it to fit a square frame. YouTube’s recipes are the most detailed – because watch time is longer there – while TikTok is a recent addition, and requires videos to be no longer than 50 seconds. Slightly more than half Twisted’s audience, which is 60 per cent women, watch on Facebook. “But we want to be creating for everyone,” says Jackson. “Food is great for that – it really transcends different platforms.”

In 2020, Twisted has even bigger plans. The top-down world of food videos is become ever more crowded, and the rise of channels such as Bon Appetit (which is published by Conde Nast, the owner of WIRED) has seen stars of shows become household names. A pair of hands – all that most Twisted viewers see at present – won’t cut it. Twisted has recently launched Hanging With, a series where they interview musicians while talking about their favourite hangover food, while they’re (eventually) planning to use their new studio to record a podcast and a chef-led series. “That’s where our aspirations have been from day dot,” says Jackson.

More than that, though, they’re harnessing the power of the analytics they get from each video to figure out what works online. “Our data informs and leads, rather than dictates, the creative process,” says Bamber. “The recipes in our cookbook take some of the key themes in our videos, and we’ve used the data to draw out some of the ingredients our audience love.” Here’s a taster of some of Twisted’s data-driven insights.

Christopher Mitchell

Pasta plays well

Pasta videos consistently see some of the highest engagement rates – a third higher than the average for each platform. Pair that with meatballs, and you’re on the way to viral success: meatball recipes have had more than 100 million views alone.

Add cheese

Cheese-based recipes tend to drive engagement of all types for Twisted. The average video featuring cheese gets 3.1 million views – 17 per cent more than the average, with 32 per cent more comments, and 21 per cent more engagement.

Size matters

It may seem obvious, but the larger the dish, the bigger the success on social media. One of the most viewed videos for Twisted in 2019 was its giant spaghetti stuffed meatball – which had 36 million views by October 2019. The average giant recipe gets 3.6 million views (which is a million more than the average video).

Double carbs

Potato-based recipes seem to get viewers talking: over the last three years, videos featuring potatoes posted by Twisted have driven double the number of average comments per video.

Chocolate is an Insta-hit

Different recipes play well on different platforms. Over the last three years, chocolate recipes have been viewed ten per cent more than the average on Facebook, and 15 per cent more than the average on Instagram.

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